Sunday, 6 November 2016

In Search of Waxwings

Saturday November 5

What a day to choose. Stormy northerly winds, the torrential squally showers almost continuous. Towards the afternoon, some contained nearly fully formed hail. 
The journey west was almost birdless. The road down to Sculthorpe Mill completely so, a particularly heavy shower brought a hasty retreat. At the end of the road, the sun came out. Back down to the Mill, an incredible experience. A huge wind squall from behind the car enveloped us in yellow, brown and orange Autumn leaves. It was like a colour blizzard. The leaves continued to roll across the car park like a fast retreating tsunami. 
This became the pattern of the day. Rain followed by short spells of blue sky and sun which were small oases in a mass of purple-grey cloud with the occasional partial rainbow.
A field at the entrance to Valley Farm Lane held a few Redwing, Fieldfare, Red-legged Partridges, two hares and one Mistle Thrush. My partially open window still let in enough wet to soak my left leg. Wiping down the car surfaces was a good thing, from  the amount of dirt showing on the tissue.
Abbey farm approach lane held no birds at all, the view from the hide only a few Teal and Mallard. Not even any Greylag to-day. Two Common Buzzards drifted across a far field, hassled by the ever present corvids.
As we were giving Snettisham a miss, we drove down to the sea front car park west of Hunstanton town, soon after Tesco. The sea was still pounding the walkway, no chance of waders there. Until two surprise Purple Sandpipers flew past, close in.
The sea was sensational, as was the skill of the sail boarders negotiating the turmoil. I couldn't resist a few photos, the sails are so colourful.

A short scan from the cliff top only produced Gannets. Where were the reported Auks etc that came through on the pager? 
Anticipation rose as we neared Holme NOA and NWT approach track. The toilet block parking places were full, birders wandering around the parking area opposite. Many were leaving. We left too, to drive down to the nature reserve, scanning all the bushes and trees, hearts leaping at every starling flock. The horses were backsides in to a thicket, trying to escape the weather. The birds must have been somewhere doing the same thing.
Back to the toilet block where we only waited about twenty minutes before a small flock of Waxwings flew into a bare tree opposite the toilets. Waw. Pam couold see them from her window. I got out, using the car as a shield and saw them fly down into the hawthorn hedge to feed. I'd only managed a couple of photographs when a youngish man, wielding a giant lens, appeared in the open alongside me. 

Shaky hands....
 The birds flew back, high into the tree. 'Was that me?' he said. I did not answer.
My other pics are of groups in the tree, thick branches making focusing difficult for my camera. 

Kevin the Teenager?

By now, the tree was engulfed by birders and photographers. No chance of them coming down again.
Pam counted about 27 birds, the other reported 40+ not present this time. We did see several groups fly distantly. Magical birds which never fail to take my breath away. Charismatic and beautiful, a true birders' bird. They also bewitch the general public.

Early afternoon and already drawing towards evening light. Blasted clocks going back. We drove home via Titchwell to pick up a late lunch before eating our sausage and onion baguette at Brancaster Staithe. Most of the boats have gone for the winter. Bar-tailed and one Black-tailed Godwit fed on the 'mound'. Humpy Grey Plovers did their dots and dash food hunt and the Turnstones and gulls fed on a half loaf of white bread left by a visitor. It's bad for you boys and girls. 
One of the Bar-tails was incredibly pale, apart from the leg colour and bill, it looked like a winter Greenshank.

Various pretty unproductive calls along the coast, apart from a Kingfisher flying along the Salthouse Beach Road drain.
I kept an eye on the pager for news of the Tree Swallow at Minsmere. We missed the St Mary bird by two days. Could I hope for a visit to-morrow?

Sunday November 6

The Tree Swallow was seen early morning before flying off south. Disappointment. One should always go on Day 1, I bet P did.

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